Why the ‘grief pandemic’ might outlast the worst of COVID-19

The pandemic is taking a devastating toll, with more than 22,000 deaths in Canada among more than 2.6 million who have died with the disease worldwide. But even as the rollout of vaccines fuels hope it may soon be over, the impact on people grieving the loss of loved ones will continue long after.

Rebecca Soffer is the co-founder of Modern Loss, an online publication and platform for individuals living through grief. She is also the co-author of the similarly titled book, Modern Loss: Candid Conversations About Grief. Soffer spoke to CTV’s Your Morning to talk about the “grief pandemic.”

According to Kaiser Health News, it’s estimated that, on average, nine people are left in grief for every death. That’s an estimated 200,000 people in Canada who are grieving deaths from COVID-19.

“That’s a lot of people who are grieving deaths directly from coronavirus, not to mention again all the other deaths that are happening all around the world from other causes,” Soffer said in an interview from Great Barrington, Mass. on Tuesday.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult in any circumstance, but having to grieve while practising physical distancing in isolation has made coping with deaths during the pandemic uniquely challenging.

“We’ve have had our coping mechanisms taken away from us, such as going to the gym, meeting in person, hugging, giving high-fives, and that is compounding onto itself to create something that we are calling the grief pandemic that is going to well-outlast the actual pandemic from this illness,” Soffer said.

Many who are dealing with loss during the pandemic have turned to online communities, like the one that Soffer runs.

“There is so much available that is so powerful when it comes to online community and peer-to-peer support. We are very lucky right now that because of COVID, we have access to therapists, to grief groups, every single thing at our fingertips online.”

Soffer told Your Morning that she wants to see more acknowledgement from policy makers of the grief pandemic, something that was sorely missing from the previous Trump administration.

“I am coming to you from a country where for many months, there was leadership that did not acknowledge the enormous grief that Americans were enduring due to this pandemic. Without acknowledgement, there’s really no healing.”​


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